Photo Credit: By Davehi1 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Author’s Note: This foray into magical realism is in honor of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of my favorite authors, who passed away last week. The story takes place in a real location in Kansas City. From 1923 to 1977, an amusement park called “Fairyland” operated in south Kansas City. With the opening of Worlds of Fun, another, larger amusement park, in the 1970s, Fairyland began to struggle. Rumors about wind damage and a storm that took out the carousel at Fairyland have become local legend. In fact, online sources date the storm anywhere from September of 1977 to May of 1978. Some sources indicate that there was indeed no actual storm damage, but the owners still claim this as the reason that the park didn’t reopen in 1978. I chose to go with November as the anniversary of the storm for a number of reasons, including the date of a storm listed in the Kansas City Tribune, November 8, 1977. You can read one version of the story about Fairyland here: http://www.kchistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/Mrs&CISOPTR=1003
Today, the spot where the Fairyland carousel once operated is remarkably close to where a playground for a low-income housing development now stands.
The November wind whipped through the low-income subdivision and whistled along the guttering as D’Arqwan and his son stepped onto the front stoop of Jimmy’s townhome. “Daddy, carry me,” five-year-old Anthony, whimpered.
D’Arqwan, high as a kite, considered the request, then staggered, nearly falling off the stoop. “You got legs. Use ‘em,” he snapped, in an attempt to hide his inability to carry the little boy home at this late hour.
The two descended to street level, and Anthony grabbed his father’s hand before crossing College Avenue. “Look both ways, Daddy.” D’Arqwan’s addled brain found humor in his son’s caution—look both ways at midnight in a subdivision.
They had just crossed the street when D’Arqwan heard the music. “Look, Daddy, a carnival!” Anthony was already running toward the bright yellow lights in the center of the courtyard. As he ran, the little boy slipped out of the red jacket that was two sizes too big for him.
An eerie voice whispered warnings into the cracks in D’Arqwan’s mind. He picked up the jacket and called, “Anthony?” He couldn’t move fast enough to keep the little boy from clambering onto the carousel standing in the spot where D’Arqwan knew he should find nothing but a graffiti-covered slide and a couple of swings.
As D’Arqwan staggered toward the carousel, it began to rotate, slowly at first. The horses moved up and down. Anthony, perched on a stationary lion, waved enthusiastically to his father. “Look! I’m a lion tamer.”
Terror struck D’Arqwan square in the stomach. “Anthony!” The carnival music drowned out his voice. “Get off the carousel! Anthony!”
Along the cracks in his brain, D’Arqwan heard the pseudo-friendly voice of a ride operator from a modern amusement park. “Please remain seated until the ride comes to a full and complete stop.”
The wind, which had died down, suddenly picked up again. D’Arqwan clutched his son’s jacket to keep the wind from ripping it away. The carnival music sped up, and the carousel began spinning out of control. D’Arqwan could no longer make out his son’s face. The sound of a locomotive running along steel tracks drowned the music as a twister stretched its lone tentacle from the sky and sucked in the carousel along with its living occupant.
The first light of dawn played in the sky when D’Arqwan awoke. He lay face down in the gravel of the tiny playground. He struggled to his feet, blinking. Memories from the night before came flooding back. “That musta been some kinda weed over at Jimmy’s last night,” he muttered to himself. Then he noticed the red jacket, still clutched in his right fist. “Oh, God! Anthony.”